US & Canada

Obama refuses to barter for Edward Snowden

President Barack Obama has ruled out diplomatic "wheeling and dealing" in attempts to extradite US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Speaking on a visit to the West African nation of Senegal, Mr Obama said the case would be handled through routine legal channels.

"I am not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," he added.

Meanwhile, Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said the country had yet to decide whether to admit Mr Snowden.

'Allowed in?'

The former National Security Agency contractor faces espionage charges in the US. He flew to Moscow last weekend and has requested asylum in Ecuador.

"Would he be allowed to arrive on Ecuadoran territory?" Mr Correa said on Thursday. "This is something that, in principle, we haven't considered. We would probably examine it, but for now he is in Russia."

Mr Obama also said on Thursday that he had not called China's and Russia's presidents about the case, adding: "I shouldn't have to."

He told a news conference in the Senegalese capital Dakar: "I'm not going to have one case of a suspect who we're trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I've got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues."

He added: "My continued expectation is that Russia or other countries that have talked about potentially providing Mr Snowden asylum recognise that they are a part of an international community and they should be abiding by international law."

The US has accused Russia and China of helping Mr Snowden, which both deny.

'Pressures or threats'

On Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Ecuador had issued a special refugee travel document to Mr Snowden, whose US passport has been revoked.

Another Cuba-bound flight left Moscow on Thursday, with no sign of Edward Snowden on board

But a senior Ecuadoran official contradicted that report.

"We confirm that the government of Ecuador has not authorised the delivery of any safe passage or refugee document that would allow Mr Snowden to travel to our country," Political Issues Minister Betty Tola told reporters, according to AFP news agency.

The country also renounced its multi-million dollar trade relationship with the US, saying its forthcoming renewal would not influence any decision on Mr Snowden's case.

"Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests," said government spokesman Fernando Alvarado.

He also made an apparently tongue-in-cheek offer of economic aid to the US for human rights training.

The remarks come a day after the chairman of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Robert Menendez, suggested punishing Ecuador economically if it offered asylum to Mr Snowden.

US 'double standards'

The American is wanted for leaking to media that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under a surveillance programme known as Prism.

On Thursday, Beijing accused the US of "double standards" on cybersecurity.

China's defence ministry said the Prism programme "has revealed the concerned country's true face and hypocritical behaviour".

Mr Snowden, now 30, fled to Hong Kong on 20 May before flying to Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport on Sunday, where Russian authorities say he remains in a transit zone.

Although Russia has no extradition treaty with the US, Washington says it wants Moscow to extradite him without delay.

Russia denies reports its secret police have questioned Mr Snowden.

Hong Kong officials said he had been allowed out of the territory because of a mistake in the middle name given on US arrest documents.

The US justice department dismissed that as a "pretext for not acting".